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As we get ready for tax season and the choices we’ll make with filing and our refunds, I’d like to offer some advice.

1. Do NOT get a Refund Anticipation Loan or a Refund Anticipation Check.  Yes, you may be able to get your funds anywhere from 2-10 days earlier, but the cost, deducted from your tax refund, is very likely NOT worth it.  If you are dealing with collectors, and I have been a collector, most of them understand tax time and will wait for the date of your pending deposit and get their payment then.  What, truly, do you have to have RIGHT THEN, that can’t wait 2 to 10 days?

2.  Research before you file (Part A).  Do you qualify to e-file for free?  Find out at www.irs.gov. You may also qualify for face-to-face assistance at little to no cost.  Check out VITA at http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Free-Tax-Return-Preparation-for-You-by-Volunteers for more information and to find a site near you.  Additionally, AARP, at www.aarp.org/taxaide, provides tax filing assistance for low to moderate income filers.

3.  Research before you file (Part B).  Check the credentials of the person who does your filing.  Review the paperwork thoroughly.  If something “feels hinky” about the person or the location, don’t utilize those services.  PROTECT YOUR IDENTITY! 

4.  Use your refund WISELY.  Start an emergency savings fund, build your already existing emergency fund, pay down debt, payoff debt. 

I hope your tax season is fruitful!